Top Vulnerability Management Tactics the Pros Don’t Want You to Know!

Home Top Vulnerability Management Tactics the Pros Don’t Want You to Know!
vulnerability management By: John Abhilash / June 24, 2024

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, effective vulnerability management is crucial for maintaining a robust security posture. While many organizations struggle to keep up with the constant stream of new vulnerabilities, seasoned security professionals have developed advanced tactics to stay ahead of potential threats. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some lesser-known strategies that can significantly enhance your vulnerability management process.

1. Prioritize Based on Exploitability, Not Just Severity

For a deeper understanding of effective vulnerability prioritization strategies, explore the following key considerations and methods that go beyond traditional severity scoring: prioritizing based on exploitability, conducting contextual risk assessments, and evaluating factors like exposure, data sensitivity, business impact, and exploit availability.

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    The CVSS Trap:

Many organizations rely heavily on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) to prioritize their vulnerability remediation efforts. While CVSS scores provide valuable information, they don’t tell the whole story.

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    Focus on Exploitability:

Security pros know that exploitability is often more critical than raw severity scores. A vulnerability with a lower CVSS score but a known exploit in the wild should typically take precedence over a high-scoring vulnerability with no practical exploit.

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    Contextual Risk Assessment:

Consider the following factors when assessing the risk of a vulnerability:

  • Exposure: Is the vulnerable system internet-facing or internal?

  • Data sensitivity: Does the affected system handle sensitive information?

  • Business impact: How critical is the system to business operations?

  • Exploit availability: Are there known exploits in the wild?

  • tickedCase Study: The Log4j Vulnerability:

In December 2021, the Log4j vulnerability (CVE-2021-44228) shocked the cybersecurity world. Despite its initial CVSS score of 10, what made it truly dangerous was its ease of exploitation and widespread use. Organizations that prioritized based on exploitability were able to address this critical issue more quickly than those solely relying on CVSS scores.

2. Implement Continuous Vulnerability Scanning

Explore the following considerations for implementing continuous vulnerability scanning, an essential practice advocated by top security professionals for maintaining real-time network security visibility and promptly addressing emerging threats.

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    Beyond Scheduled Scans:

While many organizations conduct vulnerability scans on a weekly or monthly basis, top security professionals advocate for continuous scanning.

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    Real-time Insight:

Continuous scanning provides real-time visibility into your network’s security posture, allowing you to detect and address new vulnerabilities as soon as they appear.

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    Benefits of Continuous Scanning:

  • Faster detection of new vulnerabilities

  • Reduced window of exposure

  • More accurate asset inventory

  • Ability to track security posture trends over time

  • tickedChallenges and Solutions:

Implementing continuous scanning can be resource-intensive. Consider the following solutions:

  • Use cloud-based scanning services to offload processing

  • Implement incremental scanning to focus on changes

  • Leverage agent-based scanning for remote and mobile assets

  • Tools to Consider:

  • Nessus Continuous Scanning

  • Qualys Continuous Monitoring

  • Rapid7 InsightVM


3. Leverage Threat Intelligence for Context

Vulnerability scanners provide valuable data, but they lack context. Security pros use threat intelligence to understand the real-world implications of vulnerabilities. Read the following considerations to see how threat intelligence can help you prioritize effectively.

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    Move Beyond Raw Data:

Vulnerability scanners provide valuable data, but they lack context. Security pros use threat intelligence to understand the real-world implications of vulnerabilities.

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    Integrate Threat Feeds:

By integrating threat intelligence feeds with your vulnerability management process, you can better understand which vulnerabilities are being actively exploited in the wild.

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    Types of Threat Intelligence:

  • Strategic: High-level information about cyber threats and trends

  • Tactical: Information about specific attack techniques and indicators

  • Operational: Details about specific incoming attacks or campaigns

  • Technical: Technical indicators like IP addresses, file hashes, and URLs

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    Implementing Threat Intelligence:

  • Choose reliable threat intelligence sources

  • Integrate feeds into your security information and event management (SIEM) system

  • Use threat intelligence platforms to aggregate and analyze data

  • Train your team to interpret and act on threat intelligence

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    Case Study: WannaCry Ransomware

Organizations that leveraged threat intelligence were better prepared for the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017. They had prioritized patching the underlying EternalBlue vulnerability (MS17-010) based on intelligence about its active exploitation, even before the widespread attack began.

4. Implement Virtual Patching

Traditional patches can be slow, leaving your systems exposed. Virtual patching offers a faster way to plug security holes. Explore the benefits and best practices below to see how virtual patching can strengthen your defenses.

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    Bridge the Gap::

Patching vulnerabilities can be a time-consuming process, especially in large or complex environments. Virtual patching offers a way to mitigate risks quickly.

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    Use Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS):

These tools can be configured to block exploit attempts for known vulnerabilities, buying you time to implement permanent fixes.

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    Benefits of Virtual Patching:

  • Immediate protection against known exploits

  • Reduced downtime for critical systems

  • Protection for legacy systems that can’t be easily patched

  • Compliance with security standards while awaiting permanent fixes

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    Virtual Patching Best Practices:

  • Maintain an up-to-date inventory of assets and their vulnerabilities

  • Develop a process for creating and testing virtual patches

  • Monitor the effectiveness of virtual patches

  • Use virtual patching as a temporary measure, not a permanent solution


  • Tools to Consider::

  • ModSecurity (Open-source WAF)

  • Imperva SecureSphere

  • Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall

  • F5 BIG-IP Application Security Manager

5. Automate Remediation Workflows

Managing vulnerabilities manually is a tedious, error-prone process. Take control with automation! The following steps and considerations outline how automation can streamline remediation, freeing up your security team for more strategic tasks.

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    Streamline the Process:

Manual vulnerability management processes are slow and error-prone. Top security professionals automate as much of the workflow as possible.

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    Integrate with IT Service Management (ITSM)

Automating the creation and tracking of remediation tickets ensures that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly and systematically.

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    Steps to Automate Remediation:

  • Define clear remediation processes and policies

  • Map vulnerabilities to specific remediation actions

  • Implement automated ticket creation and assignment

  • Use orchestration tools to automate patch deployment

  • Set up automated validation scans post-remediation

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    Challenges and Considerations:

  • Ensure proper testing of automated remediation actions

  • Implement safeguards to prevent unintended system impacts

  • Maintain human oversight for critical systems

  • Tools to Consider:

  • ServiceNow Vulnerability Response

  • Jira Service Management

  • BMC Helix Remediate

  • Ansible for automated patching

6. Conduct Regular Penetration Testing

Vulnerability scanners are helpful, but they can’t catch everything. Penetration testing simulates real-world attacks, exposing weaknesses that automated tools might miss. This section explores different pen testing types and best practices to help you identify and address security gaps before attackers do.

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    Test Your Defenses:

While vulnerability scanning identifies known weaknesses, penetration testing can uncover complex vulnerabilities that automated tools might miss.

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    Combine Internal and External Testing:

Use a combination of internal security teams and external penetration testing services to get a comprehensive view of your security posture.

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    Types of Penetration Tests:

  1. Network Infrastructure Testing

  2. Web Application Testing

  3. Mobile Application Testing

  4. Social Engineering Testing

  5. Physical Security Testing

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    Pen Testing Best Practices:

  • Clearly define the scope and objectives of each test

  • Use a combination of automated tools and manual techniques

  • Conduct tests regularly and after significant changes

  • Ensure proper handling of sensitive data during testing

  • Follow up on findings with concrete remediation plans

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    Case Study: The Capital One Breach

The 2019 Capital One breach, which affected over 100 million customers, was caused by a misconfigured web application firewall. Regular penetration testing might have identified this misconfiguration before it could be exploited.

7. Implement a Bug Bounty Program

Traditional security teams have limitations. Bug bounty programs tap into the vast talent pool of ethical hackers worldwide to find vulnerabilities in your systems. This section explores the benefits and steps to implement a successful bug bounty program, empowering you to continuously strengthen your defenses.

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    Harness the Power of the Crowd:

Bug bounty programs leverage the skills of ethical hackers worldwide to identify vulnerabilities in your systems.

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    Start Small and Scale:

Begin with a private bug bounty program and gradually expand to a public program as you refine your processes.

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    Benefits of Bug Bounty Programs:

  • Access to a diverse pool of security talent

  • Cost-effective compared to full-time security staff

  • Continuous testing across your attack surface

  • Improved security posture and brand reputation

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    Implementing a Bug Bounty Program:

  1. Define clear scope and rules of engagement

  2. Set up a secure platform for report submission

  3. Establish a triage process for incoming reports

  4. Develop a fair and attractive reward structure

  5. Build relationships with top performers

  • Tools to Consider:

  • HackerOne

  • Bugcrowd

  • Synack

  • Intigriti

8. Focus on Asset Management

An effective defense starts with knowing what you’re defending.Asset management creates a comprehensive inventory of your IT landscape, including hidden assets like shadow IT. This section explores the key components and challenges of asset management, along with recommended tools to illuminate your entire attack surface for better vulnerability management.

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    You Can’t Protect What You Don’t Know About:

A comprehensive and up-to-date asset inventory is crucial for effective vulnerability management.

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    Implement Continuous Discovery:

Use network discovery tools to maintain an accurate inventory of all assets, including shadow IT and forgotten systems.

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    Key Components of Asset Management:

  1. Asset Discovery: Identify all devices, applications, and services on your network

  2. Asset Classification: Categorize assets based on criticality and sensitivity

  3. Asset Tracking: Monitor asset lifecycle, from procurement to decommissioning

  4. Configuration Management: Maintain records of asset configurations and changes

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    Challenges in Asset Management:

  • Keeping up with rapidly changing environments

  • Managing cloud and IoT assets

  • Dealing with shadow IT

  • Maintaining accuracy in large, complex networks

  • Tools to Consider::

  • Armis

  • Axonius

  • Cisco Network Visibility and Segmentation

  • ServiceNow IT Asset Management

9. Educate and Empower Developers

Security shouldn’t be an afterthought. Shift Left integrates security practices into the development lifecycle itself. This section details how to educate developers, foster a security-aware culture, and leverage tools to build secure code from the ground up.

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    Shift Left:

Integrate security into the development process by educating developers about secure coding practices and common vulnerabilities.

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    Implement Security Champions:

Designate security champions within developmentteams to serve as a bridge between security and development.

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    Building a Security-Aware Development Culture:

  1. Provide regular security training for developers

  2. Integrate security testing into the CI/CD pipeline

  3. Conduct code reviews with a focus on security

  4. Use secure coding guidelines and checklists

  5. Reward developers for identifying and fixing security issues

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    Tools for Secure Development:

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST) :CheckMarx, Veracode, OpenText

  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) :OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite, AppSpider

  • Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) : Contrast Security,HdiV Security

  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA) :Black Duck ,Snyk,

10. Monitor and Measure Performance

Effective vulnerability management requires ongoing measurement. Track key performance indicators (KPIs) like Mean Time to Remediate (MTTR) and Patch Coverage to identify areas for improvement. This section details valuable KPIs, implementation strategies, and reporting methods to ensure your vulnerability management program continuously strengthens your security posture.

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    What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

Track key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess the effectiveness of your vulnerability management program.

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    KPIs to Consider::

  • Mean Time to Detect (MTTD)

  • Mean Time to Remediate (MTTR)

  • Vulnerability Density

  • Patch Coverage

  • Risk Reduction Over Time

  • Compliance Rate

  • Cost of Vulnerability Management

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    Implementing Effective Metrics:

  1. Align metrics with business objectives

  2. Ensure metrics are actionable and drive improvement

  3. Use a balanced scorecard approach to cover different aspects of vulnerability management

  4. Regularly review and adjust metrics as your program matures

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    Reporting and Visualization:

  • Develop executive-level dashboards for high-level overview

  • Create detailed reports for operational teams

  • Use trend analysis to track progress over time

  • Benchmark your performance against industry standards

11. Embrace Risk-Based Vulnerability Management

CVSS scores have their place, but they don’t tell the whole story. Risk-based vulnerability management (RBVM) takes a more strategic approach, focusing on vulnerabilities that truly threaten your business. This section explores the key components of RBVM and how to implement it for smarter prioritization..

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    Move Beyond Traditional Approaches:

Risk-based vulnerability management goes beyond simple severity scores to consider the actual risk each vulnerability poses to your organization.

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    Key Components of Risk-Based VM:

  1. Asset Criticality: Assess the importance of each asset to business operations

  2. Threat Intelligence: Incorporate real-world exploit data

  3. Vulnerability Context: Consider the potential impact of each vulnerability

  4. Compensating Controls: Account for existing security measures

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    Implementing Risk-Based VM:

  1. Develop a risk scoring methodology

  2. Integrate data from multiple sources (scanners, threat intel, asset management)

  3. Use machine learning algorithms to analyze and prioritize risks

  4. Continuously refine your risk model based on new data and changing threats

12. Leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Vulnerability management is a data-heavy task. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can be powerful allies, analyzing vast datasets to identify patterns and prioritize threats that might slip through the cracks. This section explores how AI/ML can be applied in vulnerability management, along with the challenges and considerations to ensure this powerful technology is used effectively..

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    Enhance Decision-Making:

AI and ML can significantly improve vulnerability management by analyzing vast amounts of data and identifying patterns that humans might miss.

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    Applications of AI/ML in Vulnerability Management:

  • Predictive Analytics: Forecast potential vulnerabilities before they’re discovered

  • Automated Triage: Prioritize vulnerabilities based on multiple factors

  • Anomaly Detection: Identify unusual patterns that may indicate new vulnerabilities

  • Natural Language Processing: Analyze security bulletins and threat intelligence reports

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    Challenges and Considerations:

  • Ensure the quality and diversity of training data

  • Maintain transparency in AI/ML decision-making processes

  • Combine AI/ML insights with human expertise for best results

Introducing Guardian: Streamlining Your Vulnerability Management

While the tactics discussed above can greatly improve your vulnerability management process, coordinating all these efforts can be challenging. This is where Guardian, an innovative Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) solution, comes into play.

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    Key Features of Guardian:

  • Centralized Dashboard: Get a holistic view of your security posture with a centralized dashboard that consolidates data from multiple tools.

  • Noise Reduction: Guardian’s intelligent algorithms reduce false positives and highlight the most critical vulnerabilities, helping you prioritize remediation efforts.

  • Correlated Insights: By correlating data from different security tools, Guardian provides deeper insights into vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors.

By implementing Guardian alongside the tactics discussed in this article, you can take your vulnerability management program to the next level, ensuring that your organization stays protected in an ever-changing threat landscape.


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